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Marseille: A former McDonald’s in the northern districts transformed into “fast social food”


RESTAURANT Placed in compulsory liquidation in 2019, a McDonald’s in the northern districts of Marseille will rise from its ashes to become a solidarity fast-food offering hamburgers on its menu designed by starred chefs

Marseille: A former McDonald's in the northern neighborhoods transformed into “ fast social food”

Kamel Guemari with the burgers of the After M — Christophe SIMON/AFP

  • On December 10, the After M, a fast-food restaurant, will be inaugurated in Marseille solidarity food recreated locally in a former McDonald’s
  • The restaurant is reborn as a cooperative, with former employees and people in integration.
  • The profits generated will be used to provide foodstuffs to the most deprived.

The boxes of empty burgers branded “After M”, gobbled up in no time, pile up before his eyes. “Frankly, I’m moved,” said Tony Rodriguez. However, burgers, this Marseillais has seen heaps of them pass by, all these years when he worked at that McDonald’s uptown. But these burgers have a particular flavor. That of revenge. In 2019, the Commercial Court signed; the death sentence of this McDonald’s, implanted in in the city of Saint-Barthélemy, in the 14th arrondissement of the city. Marseille, not far from the deal points that plague the district. The sentence is clear: judicial liquidation. After weeks of struggle, no less than 77 employees find themselves on the floor. In a sector already disaster, the second employer in the area puts the key under the door. In cities emptied of everything, this restaurant which was called “the village square” is headed for a doomed fate: disappearing from the map.

It was without counting on the madness of some of these former employees, helped by local residents and other volunteers from Marseille. For years, they cherished a dream: that of taking over their restaurant and transforming it into a solidarity fast-food. Or rather a “fast social food, because the social is at the heart of the project”, rectifies Fathi Bouaroua, former regional director of the Abbé-Pierre Foundation and working ankle of the project. “We were going to lose, but we like to dream, and this dream will finally come true,” rejoices Kamel Guemari, a former employee. of McDonald’s, now president of the Company; cooperative of collective interest (SCIC).

UFO burgers

December 10 will mark the inauguration of the After M, name of (re)birth of fast food in the form of a cooperative. On the menu of this restaurant like no other, whose genesis has gone around the world until slip into front page of New York Times,the traditional burgers that have long haunted these places are making a comeback… under new names. “The McFish will be called Pescadou, having fun Fathi Bouaroua. The BigMac, ça will be the Beefy Mouse. When we surveyed people in the neighborhood, they told us they wanted McDonalds. So we decided to meet expectations by offering to sell the classic range, because this place is primarily dedicated to to people in the neighborhood. But you will have a second so-called fastronomic range, signed by starred chefs. It’s what we called UFO burgers, because they are closed and shaped like a flying saucer. No more dripping burgers!” All for an affordable price: 8.60 euros for the classic menu (burger + fries + drink), one euro more for the starred menu.

The very first ones, being tested these days before the official inauguration, come from the imagination of the three-star Marseille chef. Gérald Passédat and his teams. “The bread comes from a young resident of the neighborhood who opened his bakery in Canet (a neighboring city, N.D.L.R.), rejoices Kamel Guemari. Halal steaks are provided by the butcher’s shop. side.” “The potatoes will be fresh and local, said Fathi Bouaroua. The idea is to get people in our neighborhoods used to eat good food, for not much more.”

A reintegration company

Before serving the first burgers, a facelift of the former McDonald’s kitchen was carried out. necessary. “It’s been a kitchen where we only did assembly, says Sébastien Dugast, second in command to Gérald Passédat. We had to install an oven, buy a baking board. cut, a cul-de-poule and a whisk to make the mayonnaise…” Since Tuesday, the chef has been training the first 33 employees of this restaurant approved as a social integration company. “This is where local kids can find their first job, where young people coming out of prison can find a new home, where people out of work can raise their heads,” Fathi Bouaroua.

“I was a customer of the old McDo, says Akima Aroun, future manager of the restaurant. I’m from the area and used to eat my little burger when I was younger. For my mother, it’s like the limit beyond which I couldn’t go. It’s been our downtown area. we. I’asked; to work here because it’s not just burgers. It’s much more rewarding than that, because we’re helping families in precarious situations.”

The restaurant aims to achieve, from the first year, a turnover of 1.85 million euros for a surplus of 100,000 euros entirely reinvested in the purchase of foodstuffs at home; destination of the poorest. Since the first confinement, every Monday, near the former dedicated car park. formerly at the drive-thru, a distribution of packed lunches is organised, until now on the basis of donations. Today, still, 400 households in need go to the old McDonald’s every week.

Stay at; know if the model is sustainable, because the financial balance is precarious. “The conditions are very limited economically,” their requests for aid and subsidies. Currently tenant of the restaurant near the city of Marseille, under a commercial lease, L’Après M has at least three years ahead of him to make the dream a solid reality. .

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